Time to Level Up: My Experience With Baby #2 (Part Two)

Pregnancy this time was totally different. Although it wasn’t planned, it felt amazing. I wasn’t in school, I was married, had my own place, had my own car, it wasn’t my first rodeo, and I felt SO beautiful and sexy. Everything that didn’t exist during my first pregnancy.

Because of what I experienced during my first pregnancy and birthing experience, I intentionally took steps needed in order to have different outcome this time. As I stated in part one (click and read if you haven’t), I decided that using a midwife to deliver would work best for the pregnancy experience that my husband and I both desired. This time I yearned to go in labor on my own, to push when and how I wanted to, to have that “golden hour” with my baby, and to ultimately do things more naturally. Although my nursing team and nurse practitioner were amazing during my pregnancy with Taniya, the overall process was nothing compared to Jayla’s.

Unlike my first pregnancy, my midwifery team never based the health of my pregnancy off of my weight. Their goal from start to finish was to eat healthy and to remain active. Of course, they didn’t want me to gain a tremendous amount that could bring on health issues for both me and the baby, but they let my body naturally do it’s thing. This was a huge relief and blessing to me. In the past, I suffered from extreme lack of self-esteem and body dysmorphic issues. I was obsessed with how much I weighed. I would weigh myself multiple times a day, and when the number didn’t look right it changed my entire perception when I looked in the mirror. I’ve bloomed and healed in such a beautiful way since then, but was still sensitive to hearing “you’re overweight,” or “I need you to slow down on your eating because you’re picking up weight fast.” I remember being told that during my first pregnancy and feeling stuck. How do you slow down your eating or cut back when you’re pregnant? Well, had I been more knowledgeable and had more resources I would have known that I could make alterations to my diet in order to be more healthy.

That’s why I sought out educational classes this time around. I remember people inquiring about why I would take prenatal classes like I hadn’t been a parent for six years already. My reply was “Exactly, it’s been six years since I’ve been pregnant and since I’ve dealt with a newborn. A lot has changed in six years with pregnancy and beyond, and I didn’t take the necessary steps the first time around.” If I wanted a different outcome, I had to take a different route.

The midwifery team at GW Hospital provided me with an amazing packet of things to do and not do. It included helpful information for both prenatal and postpartum health. One of the recommendations was to hire a doula, which was already on my to-do list. [Read my post 10 Reasons to Hire a Doula to learn more about why women should hire doulas.] I checked out the list they provided, and in the midst of my research I found Mamatoto Village. It was a nonprofit based in DC not far from my home that offered both doula services and childbirth education courses. I immediately reached out, and this place changed the entire outcome of my pregnancy!

I received such a warm welcome and was paired up with my doula in no time. I also signed up for each and every class they offered. They ranged from newborn care, breastfeeding basics, and an intense childbirth course. Each class enlightened me, and to be honest made me feel guilty about how I handled my first pregnancy. The breastfeeding basics class made me wish that I had done more research and sought out help in order to have the breastfeeding experience I desired for my daughter and I. The childbirth class…OH.EM.GEE! First of all, it was for about 8 hours (could have been 7, 8,9 or 10 hours, but pregnancy brain is real). Second of all, the knowledge that was provided was UNREAL. I couldn’t believe I missed out on all that information. That class alone had me feeling so prepared for our newest addition to arrive. One portion of the class really changed my life. It was based on inductions and interventions. The difference between medically induced pregnancies versus natural inductions, and medical interventions versus natural interventions. When I say life changing, I mean LIFE CHANGING.

If you read my blog posts My First Go At Pregnancy: Part Three and My First Go At Pregnancy: Part Four (if not go read!) you’ll remember that I was induced. I had to labor in bed the entire time, ended up getting an epidural, didn’t get immediate skin-to-skin contact, tore my perineum, Taniya had shoulder dystocia and more. In the childbirth class, I learned that what I experienced was in fact a part of a cycle called “The Cascade of Intervention.” You can look up research or diagrams with more details on Google, but out of the 20 outcomes that I saw on the web, I experienced about 10 of them.

I knew that I could plan the for the ultimate labor and delivery experience, but I was also aware that the circumstances could change at any moment. If needed, intervention would have to take place in order to save me and my baby. However, I left class that day feeling educated, motivated and empowered. I learned ways to cope with labor, birthing positions and more. I realized that in order to have the labor and delivery experience I desired, I had to be intentional about having a positive outlook on the birthing process. It was important for me to not view the birthing process as just pain. Of course there is pain involved, but it’s pain with a purpose.

10 Reasons to Hire a Doula

I always imagined that whenever I got pregnant, it would be planned, and that it would be like every pregnancy/labor & delivery scene you’ve seen in a TV show or movie. It would go something like, “Oh my God, I think my water just broke!” Then I immediately break out into a hysterical scream and go into my routine Lamaze breathing. Moments later, I hear my beautiful baby cry. I’ve been pregnant twice, and each time they were unplanned and the complete opposite of those movie scenes. I was 21 and uneducated about pregnancy and birth my first go, and I made a promise to myself that the next time around I would be prepared to take charge and have the experience that I desired. Whether your pregnancy has been planned or spur of the moment, whether you’re teenager or middle-aged woman, having a doula present during pregnancy experience is essential. If you’re having a planned or emergency Cesarean (C-section), a hospital or homebirth, having a doula present is vital. Society has hidden the importance of a doula and education regarding them; therefore women now see doulas as an option rather than a necessity. While there are numerous reasons why a pregnant mama should hire a doula, here are 10.

 

All About the Mama- A doula’s sole purpose is to meet the needs of the mother. She is there to nurture and provide support throughout the labor and delivery process, regardless of any procedures or environment changes. Your doula’s main agenda is to be by your side, comforting you emotionally and physically. If you have a partner present, they will incorporate them in soothing techniques such as massages, using a rebozo, delivery positions and more. Your doula is for you and only you. Not the hospital, doctor, nurse, or your mother-in-law; unless they are your support person.

On-Call Support- Your doula isn’t just there to support you during labor and delivery; they are there throughout your pregnancy as well. If you allow, doulas are present when and if you’re planning to become pregnant, at your prenatal appointments, or providing you with evidence based research in order to ensure that you are knowledgeable about your body and your baby. Just like technology, the medical field and their practices are constantly changing. You could have given birth two years ago and find yourself confused at every appointment in your current pregnancy.  In my case, my children are six years apart. I remember one of the midwives on my team telling me that they now suggest pregnant women get the Tdap vaccine while the baby is still in utero. They say that the antibodies immediately begin to work on their immune system to protect them for the first two months of life. Welp, six years ago, that was unheard of, and I was not comfortable saying ‘yes’ to a vaccination that I hadn’t learned about previously. I quickly notified my doula, and she immediately sent me over evidence based research on the vaccine. I didn’t have to plan or wait for the right time to call her to get the information I needed.

Resources- As a society, it has become normal to just go with the flow, popularity and with fads. We are among a popcorn society; one that believes in everything moving at the speed of light. It is unhealthy for a pregnant woman to rush her pregnancy, labor and delivery, and healing after birth. You have to take a step back and really think about what your mind, body and soul are experiencing during these times. Having resources readily available is important, and your doula will point you in the right direction. When you are in the market of buying a home, car or working on a new job, one does not go into that process blindsided. In most cases, you have done your research and have learned as much as you could because of how big of an investment it is. Giving birth and bringing life into this world is one of the biggest investments you will ever make. A doula reminds you of this and offers so many helpful resources that are personalized for you. Each person is different and may not need the same resources, so it helps having someone to be by your side helping you sort through the overwhelming information that is out there for pregnant women.

Holistic Health- Doulas truly believe in the overall health of the mother and child(ren). That is the mental, physical and spiritual health, rather than just the physical aspect alone. Many women often think of pregnancy as only prenatal visits, sonograms, blood work, weight watching, and more. While those come along with pregnancy, it is so much more than that. Having a healthy pregnancy and baby means taking care of yourself mentally, physically and emotionally. Your doula can assist you in your nutrition, healthy material to read, suggestions for activities that help you to remain active and some to incorporate your family, stretches that will help ease the aches, natural ways to aid in getting the sleep you need, etc. In addition to those mentioned, women who have suffered from miscarriage, stillbirth and/or infant loss benefit from the holistic approach of a doula.

Medical Health-I will never forget my visit with a high-risk doctor during my first pregnancy. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many times the possible death of either me or my daughter was mentioned during that visit. A direct quote from him was “Giving birth is a moment of either life or death.” One of the main objectives of a doula is to decrease the maternal death rate. Black women are three times more likely to die during childbirth, and many natural birth workers believe it is due to the medical interventions, and/or lack of proper care that take place during labor and delivery. For every medical intervention that a doctor will recommend, your doula has a natural option to combat it with. A few examples of this are natural induction versus medical induction, changing the position of a breached baby, and avoiding an episiotomy and/or tearing of the perineum. In some cases, a medical intervention cannot be avoided in order to help save the mom and baby, but even in those moments your doula being present can help change a negative situation into a positive one.

Advocacy- If you’re delivering in a hospital you will most likely experience the shift changes of nurses and doctors. When you’re in labor, talking is the furthest thing from your mind. Your main focus is to get through each contraction (or whatever positive word replacement you choose). Depending on what hospital you deliver at and who the delivery team is, you unfortunately may experience some form of discomfort. Having a doula present will bring about a sense of calmness and relief among you and your partner. If needed, they will bridge the gap of communication between you and the doctor; ask any questions you may have, help reinforce your birth plan and more. Women are often given little information about procedures during labor and delivery and a doula will advocate for you to have the birth that you desire.

Comfort. Confidence. Judgment Free (C.C.J.F)-When pregnant, you experience a lot of things that make you feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. They can range from extreme gas, constipation, a weak bladder and more. No matter how embarrassing it may be, they’ve witnessed it all before. You may also have differing views from other mothers. Maybe you’d rather give your child all the vaccinations that the doctors recommend or you won’t vaccinate them at all. Your doula provides a judgment-free zone. Whatever choices you are making for your family, as long as they do not cause blatant harm, your doula will support and make you feel confident about it.

Breastfeeding (Intro)-When giving birth to your little one, you have the option of breastfeeding or bottle feeding (formula). If you choose to breastfeed, I can’t stress enough how support is needed from the very start in order to be successful at it. From getting the baby to latch, finding a comfortable position to nurse in, recognizing baby hunger cues and more, doulas will assist. While there are lactation specialists who can go in-depth, if you’ve delivered in a hospital, there’s no telling when the expert will make their way to you. Having a doula to aid you in the meantime relieves you of the stress of hearing your newborn baby scream because they’re hungry and you can’t get them to latch on to your breast.  In some cases, your doula may be a certified lactation expert, in which you have hit the jackpot.

Postpartum Health-As I’ve stated before, doulas are there for the long haul. They don’t just disappear after the umbilical cord is cut (if you choose to do so). They will make house visits, scheduled and as needed. While pregnant, people are checking up on you to make sure you’ve eaten, to see if you’ve gotten any rest and to see if you’re feeling okay in general. Often times, those calls stop after the first week of your postpartum journey. I recently saw a mom at my daughter’s school picking up her older child only four days after giving birth to her newborn who was with her. I’m not sure if she preferred to be superwoman and do it herself, or if she had no choice. In that scenario, a doula would have made sure to accommodate the newborn while she ran out to handle her duties. While women are strong, we still need to be cared for during the fourth trimester. Whether it is your first or fourth time, support is needed. It is so easy to forget to shower, brush your teeth or eat when caring for a newborn. You’re trying so hard to soothe your baby’s cries, and you haven’t noticed that you’ve been holding your pee for the past hour. You find yourself so tired from the lack of sleep, washing clothes, cooking and cleaning is the last thing you want to do. There’s a doula for that. Postpartum depression is also very real, and having a doula may help with the onset of the blues.

Family Support- If you are bringing a newborn into an already established family with one or more children already present, the transition can be a little intense. Children can feel neglected, jealous, confused, and more. Having a doula present can help facilitate family bonding and show you ways to keep all members involved in caring for the new baby and you.

All in all, doulas are not doormats or people you take advantage of, but are individuals that there for you in every way possible. Having one is a necessity, not an option or accessory!

Mommy I Can’t See, It’s Black

When I was younger, the thought of having a child used to make me nauseous. I couldn’t fathom the pain that women endured in the process of giving birth, and I couldn’t imagine having something squirming inside my stomach. It would honestly make my stomach turn, and I was fearful of the moment it would happen to me. Nevertheless, I knew that at some point when I was an adult wanted to have at least two children, preferably one boy and one girl. At the time I didn’t think about the health of my unborn children. All I thought about was the fun and adorable times that we would experience. Soon I would learn the gender of the child doesn’t matter one bit. Your ultimate desire is a healthy baby.

I was a young college student away from home and always worrying if I had done something to harm my daughter when I was pregnant the first time. As I grew further along in my pregnancy, it became engrossed with negativity and talks of high risk, so my prayers began to turn into begging God to bless my baby to be healthy. Well God did just that. Blessed me with an 8-pound beautiful, strong and healthy little girl. I wouldn’t have loved my baby any less, but no mother prays for a child that will need visits with specialists or more emergency visits. I thought my child was perfect, although I knew no one was truly perfect.

It was when my daughter was a little over the age of one when I noticed that she still struggled to gain focus with her eyes. During her well-child visits, her pediatrician stated that children are still learning how to use their eyes when they are that young, but if it persisted that I should take to her to an eye doctor. I took her advice, but ultimately knew I would do what I felt was best as her mother. At the time, I wasn’t too bothered. I chalked it up to her having a lazy eye. Then as time went on I grew a little concerned. If you ask any mother about her child, she’ll tell you she knows when something isn’t right with her baby. When I covered my baby’s left eye, she said “Mommy I can’t see, it’s black.” My heart dropped into my stomach.  I responded, “Are you sure baby? Is it black, or is it just fuzzy?” Her response, “No mommy I can’t see, it’s dark.” I called my husband and we scheduled her eye appointment immediately.

The doctor concluded that the optic nerve in her right eye didn’t fully develop, limiting her to only 5% vision in that eye, while her left eye was pretty much perfect. He said that the vision in her right eye would never improve, but it wouldn’t get worse either. We were given a prescription for some glasses that only had little medicine in order to give her a little balance, but for the most part they were vital in order to protect her left eye. At the time we were told that if anything happened to her left eye she would only “feel” like she was blind.

Years passed, and everything remained the same, but me. My daughter was thriving and refused to be viewed as one who was handicapped, but I grew more insecure. I worried about how she would succeed in the classroom, if she would be able to play safely with others, if children would bully her, if she would think she was ugly, and how she would be able to deal with it all. When I looked at my child I saw perfection, but it was tainted with MY insecurity. I suffered for years with my own insecurities and low self-esteem, so I knew I had to get my life together. I didn’t want to pass my negativity onto her, nor did I want her to think that I viewed her as less than.  I began practicing affirmations with her. It started off vocal, and the more she improved her reading and writing skills, I made her write them out. I am beautiful. I am strong. I am smart. I am loved. I am confident. I am enough. I am Taniya Beautiful Gurley.

Between the ages of 5 and 6, she began to take notice of her eye not remaining straight. I would catch her in the mirror trying to force it to look in the same direction as her healthy eye. I would reassure her that her eye was fine, but deep down, it hurt my feelings because I know that she has matured and cares more about her physical appearance. I remain strong and fight the urge to stress and grow insecure again. I did however schedule another visit with her ophthalmologist- pediatric specialist.

The results came back the same, but final. Taniya is legally blind in her right eye. So now if she damages her left eye, she will not feel blind. She will be blind until it heals. The only surgery that can be done is to correct the appearance of the eye. He said if it doesn’t bother her, leave it. But if she wants to change it, he’s available. He also reassured me that she’ll be able to drive, fly an airplane, dance, cheer, swim, gymnastics and more. She will simply struggle with athletics that use a smaller object, such as tennis, hockey and softball.

There was nothing I could do differently throughout my pregnancy to change this outcome. The optic nerve was either going to develop or not. For a while I battled with that. I believed that I was the cause of her blindness. I told myself that I was too inconsistent with my prenatal vitamins. If only I had breastfed her longer, maybe the milk could have fixed it. I am so relieved that it was not my fault, but just the birth mark that God has given my daughter. Today, I am reminded that my daughter is in fact perfect and healthy. My child is blind in one eye but is a first grader who reads on a third-grade level. She reassures me every day that she is okay. I reassure her every day that she is a queen in training. She is smart. She is confident. She is enough. She is Taniya Beautiful Gurley.